By Max Lynch (GSB’19), FSIC Student Leader.
Day 2 themed, “Understanding Inequality Globally” opened with a keynote presentation from Linda Bellos. Linda is a retired member of British government, who used her passion for equality to disrupt inequality in existing government systems. Linda’s presence was in itself inspiring to everyone listening to her speech because she was a black, lesbian, woman in power who advocated black, LGBT, and women’s rights. Having worked against inequalities that she has direct experience with gave a high level of credibility to her thoughts and comments. To hear such comments was inspiring in itself. Apart from her inspiring presence, I found myself somewhat lost in her talk at times. Her talk was not very structured, and she used some British political language that I was not familiar with. This coupled with my unfamiliarity with British political systems left me sometimes confused. Nevertheless, everybody listening and myself were inspired by having a real life figure of change in our presence. I like how conferences often will place an inspiring keynote speaker at the very start of a conference. In the case of the Changemaker Student Summit, Linda Bellos embodied many of the Changemaker characteristics that us as viewers could only dream of having. Knowing that I could someday be similar to her in character served as inspiration throughout the rest of the conference and beyond. Linda was a true Changemaker role model.
Soon after the keynote presentation, we were treated to a special lunch from Elsie’s Cafe. Elsie’s Cafe works to rescue food that is on it’s way to being wasted by supermarkets, and create delicious tasting food. According to Elsie’s, our current food systems have a serious problem wasting food that might be “expired.” In reality, much of this expired food can still be used and eaten. For two days I ate dishes that were crafted from rescued and expired food. Never did I get sick, or even get turned off by the food. In fact, the food was very good. Imagine the impact we could have on our environment if we all worked to rescue food and not be wasteful. There would be less solid waste in landfills, less abuse of natural and animal resources, and less emissions. I love how Elsie’s Cafe was a part of my Changemaker Summit experience. Even down to sustainability in the food that I ate, the Summit was able to inundate me with a Changemaker mindset.
After lunch we began to address what inequality looks like locally. During the entire Summit we focused on five specific areas of inequality; disability, LGBT, gender, BAME(Black, Asian and minority ethnic – used to refer to members of nonwhite members in the UK), and wealth gap. We broke up into groups based on these very inequalities. I joined the disability group where we began conversing about the matter. We covered what our individual experiences were with disability, what problems we thought existed, and also possible solutions to these problems. I shared a personal story about my close cousin Elisa who lives with cerebral palsy. I have noticed that after she finished high school, she has struggled with living the productive lifestyle that she desires. She has little opportunity for employment, and ends up spending most of her time at home. From this story we addressed employability as a need for people with disabilities. Two other problems we identified for disability were stigma, and mental detriments being a disability just as much as physical disabilities. It was very enlightening to have this civil discussion around disability and to hear everyone’s unique takes on how they have experienced disability.
Our last activity of the day was a demonstration on privilege. Throughout the room there were five stations, each station representing one of the five conference inequalities(disability, LGBT, BAME, gender, wealth gap). At every station a paper with a list of ten statements and a cup of beads were found. The statements represented the station’s inequality in various ways. For example, the gender station might have a statement that says, “I have never been paid unequally to my opposite sex.” The disability station might have a statement that says, “I have never required special assistance in order to gain access to a building.” We were each given a piece of string and charged with adding a bead to our string for every statement that we could identify with. I went through this exercise and out of about 50 statements, I identified with maybe 47 of them. My string had a lot of beads on it, signifying that I am very privileged. As I looked around, many people had much fewer beads on their strings, and therefore less privilege. This realization came initially with shame. I felt bad that I live with such privilege, and that so many of my peers do not. It was an obvious display of inequality amongst our own group. After conversing about my feelings with those who had less beads that myself, I digressed that it was nothing to be ashamed of. I concluded that I am only playing with the cards that God dealt me, and nothing can be done about that. The exercise brought awareness to my own privilege, which I think was the most important takeaway. Once again, I walked away very enlightened from yet another amazing Changemaker experience.
From day 2, my scope of what different inequalities exist and what they each mean was drastically expanded. I learned the BAME acronym and what it stands for, and problems accompanied with innovative solutions to each of our 5 focus inequalities. Lastly I became more self aware, through the amazing privilege activity. Overall, day 2 evolved my Changemaker mindset to a whole new level. Hopefully this will serve me and the Fordham community well in the future.